Joan's Story

"We got attacked - petrol bombed. I mean I didn’t really know what a Fenian was. Our lives were a living hell, we suffered a lot, we couldn’t have went out without getting beat".

Joan's Story

R: Looking at Belfast after the Good Friday Agreement – do you think Belfast lives have changed?

It has changed considerably, but there’s still a lot going on in the background. I think there’s still stuff going on because you still hear about people getting shot, young ones getting taken away then shot. See, something like that could spark something off and then it all could start up again dead dead easy.

I don’t remember much about the Good Friday Agreement, see I lived over on the East at the time the police barricaded all the Catholics in and they all woke up - they done it in the middle of the night. It was on TV. See it was coming to the end of the troubles, we lived in Protestant estates, nobody knows this. See my mum she was that stupid she reared us in Protestant estates. She reared us in them estates because she got an offer of a house in a Catholic area, but she wouldn’t take it because she was scared of her sons joining the IRA or something. So, which is worse - the devil or the deep blue sea?

We got attacked, petrol bombed. I mean I didn’t really know what a Fenian was. Our lives were a living hell, we suffered a lot, we couldn’t have went out without getting beat. I remember once we got petrol bombed, in through the back window, into the back kitchen. The kids were upstairs, and my mum fought to put it out. There were ones running over to help my mummy, but the guy fell, and he would have seen them helping so they couldn’t. We knew who it was anyways.

I have memories of the lamppost outside that house, I use to swing on it all day on my own because no-one would play with me. I used to ask people all the time, play with me, play with me, but I didn’t know why they wouldn’t, I was only a child. Mum used to pay ones to play with me. I didn’t know it was because of religion, I was only a kid. I can remember looking out the window once and seeing a police man walking up the estate and next thing he fell, my mum pulled me away from the window, he had been shot dead. I didn’t ask anything, I didn’t want to know… We ended up getting put out of there.

When we moved, I was 10 going into secondary school and we stayed there until I was nearly 17/18. And we had the most horrible life. That’s when we found out what she was and that made it even worse. You couldn’t have walked. My mummy didn’t realise … we didn’t have a windee. We lived in that house and hadn’t a windee. We had windees with bricks through them, big holes in the windows. At that time the housing didn’t put them in and St Vincent DePaul put them in for her and then they done them again. It was like the big main window that got put in and the upstairs windows. Also,men with hoods over their faces came in and told her to get out, she still didn’t leave. She stayed there, don’t ask me why, don’t ask me. And then we couldn’t have moved without getting beat, I was getting raped. Couldn’t have gone out without getting raped, my mummy didn’t know any of this... any of the Protestant wee lads would have seen me, they would have been a bit older than me, they would have gripped me and that would have been, I would have been getting raped and stuff like that happening to me.

But also, we didn’t ask her to move. She was never there anyways. On St Patrick’s day I got beat stupid – big bruises all over my face, two wee girls done it. It was always me, I think because I was the older one. I’m 5 years older than the rest. Ones would have chased them, maybe got beat but my young sister never got raped, that mainly happened to me whenever we lived there.

I was sexually abused by my father, but I don’t call him that, he’s the person she had sex with and put me here. I don’t know who he is, he’s dead now anyway. He had sexually abused me when I was a child. Then another time one of my cousins tried to rape me, only my mum gripped me in time and she thought it was funny. Then I said,‘she’s not all there’, I said, ‘You shouldn’t have had me, you shouldn’t have had me, you should have killed me, you would have given me a better innings’. But then I wouldn’t have had Peter. But I would have had a better life though, we didn’t really have a great life with her being the way she was, then the granny would had reared us while she done what she had to do, so the granny was the man of the house. So, we would have been murdered - you were getting it in the house then getting it outside and should have killed yourself, you should have been dead by now. People in my family goes ‘you’re not strong you’re very weak – you’re very weak’.

Anybody I had a relationship with would have controlled me, so it took me a long time to catch on because I am so stupid and naïve, but now I have caught on and it’s too late and I’m near 55 coming and all I have is Peter and that’s my life. And I just want my Peter to be happy and to be aware of dangers and be aware that there can be people that come across nice but can be dangerous and can turn and be very dangerous, because I have had that in my life. In one relationship I had four to him, they are all to the one daddy. We lived outside Belfast. I had a child and it ended up my child got took off me, which is better – OK it was sad, because there was no one there to support me or look after me, no one knows my business, no one knows that. Nobody knows anything about me, my kids know some of the stuff, but they don’t know it all.

My mum had put me out and I had nowhere to go. I had to sleep here and there and with this one and that because whenever I was getting older,me and my granny use to clash, and she just put me out. So, I would have had to sleep with someone to get staying or knocked about or whatever. Anyways, their daddy was very, very violent to me. I had nowhere to go. I had a child with him and I had nowhere to go. I ended up staying with him, on and off for 14-15 years, but he gave me a hard life. Very cruel, he beat me when I was carrying my kids, I would have to say to him,‘hold on until I put the child down’, and I had to try and protect the child that was in me. What could I have done? I had four to him and lost about three or four kids to him. Because he beat me when I was pregnant as well. I would have been lying on the other side of the room and he would have went wallop, just thumped me for no reason. He tried to strangle me one night, you should have seen the marks around my neck. He even tried to stab me one night, they came and took him and locked him up in the nut house, or whatever you call that place, wherever you put them. He ended up getting out. As well as beating me he would have called me a fenian bastard. So, everyone in the place knew I was a Catholic.

I ended up leaving him once and he met someone else and got her pregnant. I moved to a hostel in the east of the City. I found that your own don’t accept you if you’re not from that area, if you’re not reared with them. I was with the kids on the Ormeau road and the kids got attacked and then they couldn’t go to school and then my head was turned. My head was away with the birdies. There was one time the police had blocked everyone in, everyone woke up and the police had everyone blocked in. I near died, I had never seen anything like that in my life, oh my God, Jesus, Mary and St Joseph and there was a road block on. They were sitting on the road and all that there. They were beating the Catholics and trailing them off the road. They were shooting up at them, and my Jo came in and he was grey he was only about 4 or 5. I didn’t realise but he seen that, and maybe that’s what happened to him, that was maybe playing on his mind. Because he came in and was hiding. The ones who did the shooting came in and ran through my house, because my house was a corner house, I didn’t even know, it was my son who seen it, he was told to keep his mouth shut. One other time a young guy came running in and hid in my house from the army, I let him because I didn’t want anything happening to him.

R: How do you think life has changed since the Good Friday Agreement?

About a thousand times better but I think the fear is still there…the fear is still there of it starting up again. I fear for Peter, I fear that something could happen to him. He goes into town and maybe there is a crowd of Protestants and you always get one that hates you, that bullies you, hits you, spits on you. I says ‘Peter, make sure you watch your back’. He went down to a Protestant street behind my back to meet a wee girl and I went mental, I went mental. I says ‘Peter, not all Protestants are bitter, but you always get one or two who would say come here mate down to this house and you wouldn’t get out of it’. I don’t class all Protestants with a tag, I don’t, because I have run about with nice ones too. I would mentally torture Peter, it’s not mentally torture but I keep going on and on at him to try and keep him safe.

R: How would you feel about the peace walls coming down?

For Peter I would be frightened, because, say they are all up there fighting, he would be up there, all the young ones with drink in them, oh aye. Sure, half the young bucks now are left to do what they want. I am not saying I am a brilliant parent or anything because I’m not, I mean I have faults as well. I had mine murdered to try and control them to keep them away from this or that. I didn’t murder them,but I would give them a smack.

R: How do you feel about refugees and asylum seekers coming over here?

I have nothing to say about it, at the end of the day they are poor and have nothing. Their children are dying. Out on boats, look at the wee babies dying. They are human beings, they can’t help it. What if that was us? How would it be that way?

I don’t care who lives beside me. As long as my Peter is alright and myself and don’t bother me. Yeah, because they’re human beings. Because at the end of the day we haven’t got green or orange blood. When you cut us we aren’t green, red or gold, they have just the same blood as what we have. It’s just different kinds of situations. At the end of the day, them people need safety. They can’t help it, they have wee babies and all. Them wee babies are starving to death, at the end of the day, what can you do?

I mean, where we live, apparently people say they have gold teeth, this and the other thing. That’s neither here nor there. At the end of the day I don’t know what they have nor do I want to know. But I would always give a couple of pound. Because the girl down there needs to buy baby milk, and I would throw a couple of pound her way. Coz that could be your baby. Needing that milk. At the end of the day our country is … it might be what it is, but we take most of it for granted. Because we have a lot of opportunities, we have a health system, a lot of people take the shit out of DLA and all that. People get that and don’t need it, and there are people that need it. And they are not getting it, unfair. I don’t agree with that. But that’s not my decision.

R: What are your hopes for the future?

For Peter just… for Peter to have a good life, for Peter to be happy. Hopefully the troubles not to start up again, how could we all cope with that again? People getting shot and bate and took away in cars and killed and stuff. From one area to another.

Them other shootings to get their own back. Shooting people in front of kids and all.

I have Tom, I have a son at 27 – he’s called Tom – he hasn’t had much of a life, he’s a heroin addict. He suffers from mental illness and he thinks he’s okay, he’s not. We try to tell him to go and get help, I just worry one day he’ll be found dead. At the end of the day, I don’t really worry about myself, I just worry about my sons. I asked Tom to go to the doctors, but you can’t bring the horse to the water that doesn’t wanna go. I’ve tried.

I’ve another wee one there who’s over in England at the minute, he’s a heroin addict as well. I don’t really know what’s happening with him, as far as I know he’s off everything… I don’t really know but I pray that he is. It’s just my sons I worry about, it’s just my family. Even my daughter, she’s doing brilliant, her and her boyfriend are settled, she has kids. Even though me and her don’t get on she’s doing alright. It’s just my sons I worry about. So really, what can I hope for myself? Nothing much at the end of the day.

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